Partying and Belen

The last couple of days were interesting. I found out I could get an apartment free through a friend, the apartment is currently empty, I mean unfurnished. Getting some furniture is cheap compared to the hotel rate for the time I would stay. I went to see it and it was OK but knowing that I’d be back soon didn’t really do much with it. Why didn’t I think of this a couple of months ago when I was just doing nothing in Lima?

I went to one of the Agricobank parties. Not much people but Monica’s friends were there. Last time one of them was like wanting to talk with me. I just avoided it politely. This time I arrived a bit late and they had been drinking with some other guys, so when I got there she was a bit friendly and after asking me a bit of who I was and saying that Monica and her were friends but she was not into the same “business”, but that she just wanted me, all while getting closer and starting to grope me. As much of an ego stroke as that somehow was I felt unwilling after a few moments, I told her so and she reacted asking me if I didn’t like her or if I was gay. I just said she was not my type and offered her a drink. After that we talked a bit, booze helped her to open and talk about her life. Until I got sleepy again and told her I was leaving. And I left.

On the one hand it was interesting to talk to the hookers and see more than just one side of them. On the other it was a pity that most of my experience in Iquitos was only with them and not with a normal girl, I mean, not a girl in the business, just a somebody that lives there.

I went to Belen. If you go around the Belen Market more than a guy will approach to you offering a ride in a bot to visit Belen. They usually ask 20 soles. But as in other places they are just intermediaries who inflate the price.

To get to the Belen port you have to walk 3 blocks down the Belen Market and then descend. You will find again many people offering the same, ask if he has a boat and if he is going to drive. The ride costs 2 to 5 soles. If you want to pay more, give it straight to the boat driver not to a guy who just brings them a customer and takes the larger part of the money with them.

OK, you then descend to the “port” and walk over wood above the water -they are like a bridge- until you board the boat. Then they take you around.

Belen

All this neighborhood is under water on the rainy season, you can see the first floor of many housed almost covered in water until the roof. But most of the houses are done in such a way that they just move everything one floor above and that’s it. I don’t know how they do with electricity, there must be a switch for each floor I guess.

They have small shops, bars, hairdressers, everything above the water. Even a church. On the way you see many houses with their doors opened and the way people leave, in hammocks, and with some furniture like tables and chairs but mostly they stay at the porch laying like sloths or kids playing in the river.

It’s an interesting trip, not to be missed.

When you return, a walk around in the market is also interesting. You will see many kinds of exotic meats sold there as motelo (turtle), majás, and some sausages that I dared not ask what they were made of. The many fruits are also interesting, some do not usually arrive to Lima and you can see and taste them there copahiba, tumbo, aguaje, ungurahui and cocona drinks are readily available for 0.50 soles a glass.

A market gives you a glimpse of a part how people lives. Consumption habits are part of a lifestyle picture.

The town has something that captures you and makes you want to stay in spite of the temperature -30 to 32º C at midday- and not having the greatest nightlife, I’d wanted to have more time to stay longer or to have come before. The allure of a simpler life perhaps. There’s also my liking for finding out how is life in other places by staying a while there.

So, while I order a cocona drink in my fav jungle food restaurant back here I think of Iquitos with a bit of nostalgia.

I should go back to stay for a longer time. Just hope that the flat is still there.

listening to Atahualpa Amuletos [Niños Malos version]

Yurimaguas

The car came on time, a little before 4 AM. I got a seat by a window, my fleece jacket and we were on our way. Our driver was a very clean and proper guy that seemed to have legs and arms too short for his body and the smile of the 50’s Mickey Mouse.

The road is in pretty good condition, a part is being worked on, so not all is paved.

On the way, daylight having arrived, you can see mist surrounding the vegetation. It’s eerie and fascinating at the same time.

Arriving to Yurimaguas you seem to be assaulted by all motocar drivers at once: one talks to you, another one does it too, a third one opens the trunk and another one points at your pack while you see yet another one picking it up looking at you, convinced you will pick him for the ride. I use a costal plástico -a large bag used locally for grains but also to transport stuff in lieu of proper packing- imagine how crazy they get when they see a large backpack that may mean people not having a clue about local motocar fares.

Anyway, picked up one to drive me to the dock to check the ship to Iquitos. Got to the port, checked the ship, the prices and went back to the city to have breakfast after booking a place in the 3rd deck.

Went around town next and no hotel would take my backpack in custody so I carried it along and went shopping for goods and water to the market area. Got bored soon and went to the ship to just wait for departure. You can see my hammock and pack there.

upper deck with my hammock and pack

Here is an interesting tip: beware of motocar drivers or the guys who are at the port entrance, they want to carry your luggage or tag along with you to offer you a hammock for a higher price -20 or 25 soles- than the one you would pay in the ship that is 6 for small hammocks or 10 for larger ones to rent.

About the ship: there are several options but the larger and probably the safer ones are the Eduardo ships to Iquitos. They have a cargo deck -that takes almost anything from oranges to cows or a 4WD-, a passenger deck -60 soles- and an upper deck where you can go in a hammock -120 soles- or a cabin with a bed sizes ranging from a sofa-width (1/2 plaza – 140 soles) to a single bed (1 1/2 plazas 250 soles) and a twin (2 plazas – dunno) bed. The last two have private bathrooms and a fan.

Both decks serve meals to passengers but in the 2nd one you have to provide your cup, dish, fork, spoon and knife. In the 3rd one all that is provided to you.

Food appears to be the same.

Laguna Azul

If you are Peruvian you have probably heard of la Laguna Azul as a vacation spot. You can take a tour there from Tarapoto, they ask 70 soles including lunch.

But this time I chose to go by my own. Got a motocar to take to the combi and car stop that drives to El Sauce, the village in front of the Lake. They leave when they are full so, some waiting time there. Cars are 10 soles when taking 5 or 12.50 when taking 4 people. Combis are 7 or 8 soles.

While seating I spoke a bit with the driver and a woman, who came to ask for a package, got into the conversation. Probably in her 30’s simply dressed and with that tanned skin tone usual in the people around here. She had a charapa -a name for the people from Loreto, or the jungle in general- accent and after asking me a few questions about where I came and if I traveled alone we started joking about another woman’s butt and sex in the way they usually do around here, openly and explicitly. I just followed along and had fun. She was a Saucina -born in El Sauce-. Later she sat by my side and asked me if I was married or something, I explained to her I was not but had met and lived with a girl from Pucallpa before. And then something caught my attention, I can’t recall it right now, I think it was the possibility of the combi departure so I looked away for a while. When I turned back she was walking away saying that she had to leave and wishing me a good trip.

I had enjoyed her company for a moment and regretted a bit that she left. Oh well…

The drive to El Sauce is a paved way that later becomes a road that reaches the river where a floating platform to cross to the other side awaits.

crossing the river on the way to El Sauce and Laguna Azul

On the way to El Sauce there is a detour a little after having crossed the river, that leads to hot springs. The place seems interesting, with several pools of different temperatures and a house / hostel where to have something to eat and possibly to stay. I found out too late…

After the river, the road cuts through a real jungle forest, trees and vegetation paint the surroundings in green just until you see a small lake -not the Laguna Azul- but a sulfurous lake that has no fish in it. Later the road goes higher and then you have the first glimpse of the Laguna Azul and some lodges by the lake side before reaching El Sauce.

I arrived around midday and stepped down in the main square, before the car stop. Took a look around, not much to see and went to the pier looking for a boat ride. Empty. No people around.

a pier facing Laguna Azul

Laguna Azul is not blue.

Laguna Azul is not blue

The place was nice though, peaceful and surrounded by deep green hills. I went to eat and came back to contemplate the lake before going back. Some hotels were nice, even at El Sauce they looked really like lodges with cabins and even saw a kayak around but even though they were opened no one was around to answer my questions. I even yelled hello waiting for somebody to come but nothing. Perhaps they were having lunch. Who knows.

While waiting at the pier, a guy arrived and seated a little behind. Later two other guys came along with a local who offered them a boat ride. For 35 soles. They refused and left. When the guy asked me I haggled a little and I got the ride for 30 soles. And we would take the first guy who was a boy that only had 2 soles for free. The ride for a cheaper price and taking a poor boy along for free seemed a good deal to me.

We left a little later, after an old man came along offering us the same ride for 25 soles. But he had a different attitude, not really like somebody I’d like to spend time with so I refused and he left grumbling. Our guide was kind and good humored and told us many stories about El Sauce and the surroundings. He took us to the piscicultura -fish farm- already abandoned but still owned by the government. The place was wonderful, I was so in awe that I didn’t take a picture of it until we had arrived. He said some people chooses to camp there to spend the night at the lake and the guardian is a friend of him who doesn’t charge nor mind people camping as long as they don’t pollute. In fact the guardian and his wife welcome the company as they live alone in there all year long. The place was really beautiful and I was very very tempted to stay, even offered a mattress where to sleep, but had left my backpack at the Hotel Cielo with my fleece jacked and thermals. I really wasn’t prepared for this and had never heard or read that you could stay here for free. There is a path that leads to 2 de Mayo -another village 1.5 hrs away by foot- where you can take a motocar back to El Sauce.

Fish farm at the Laguna Azul

Resting at this spot with full sunlight I was thinking of the saucina women. I should have asked her to come along, she may have agreed. And it would have been good company to spend the night.

On the way back I asked the captain to stop as I wanted to swim in the middle of the lake. And I took a swim, a short one as I soon felt tired, perhaps by the lake waves. The boat moved away and for a second I though they were going to leave me to drown and take my stuff with them. It was a terrible thought that got me frightened for a moment. So I turned yelled him asking to come pick me up instead of waiting for me and floated to relax and wait. I saw the boat going right first and then turning around to meet me. I pulled myself in and got my towel and smiled.

That was probably the most frightening moment of my whole trip up to now.

Back to El Sauce I waited for the car to have all the seats taken so we could leave and met two Lima guys who were in serious party mode, speaking of girls, sex and alcohol. At first I didn’t quite felt like interacting with them but later in the car they started talking to me and telling me the story of their trip from Lima to here. They were fun but a little noisy. They had got a Licor de Acerola, a drink made of some rounded yellow fruits that seemed a bit like cherries but who knows what their name is, that is produced there in El Sauce. The stuff didn’t tasted bad so we shared a few drinks, and experiences. The info about Morales was right, they had gone the night before and all was empty or closed, they got to the only whorehouse opened that had only a girl who they took out to their hotel. Well, that was more that I needed to know. Later they told me they belong to a salsa band, and one -or both- were singers there, and that they had the girl’s phone number so we could call her and make a foursome. That was more than I wanted to do with them at least, so I thanked their offer but refused politely.

Back in Tarapoto I picked up my backpack at Hotel Cielo to switch hotels to Patarasca lodge. Yes, they also own the Patarasca restaurant. The lodge was nice, with more personality and vegetation than Hotel Cielo, I would chose to stay there anytime over Hotel Cielo but it is not completely an improvement in all senses. Rooms smell a bit old and there is no pool, they accept visa cards and I got a rate of 30 soles there, including private bathroom and cable TV.

It’s an interesting choice anyway, and just a block away from the main square.

I hesitated a lot again to leave Tarapoto the next morning. Wanted to go back to El Sauce and stay a the piscicultura. Wanted to meet again the woman as well. Wanted to have another lunch at the Patarasca. Oh well, if I wanted to reach Iquitos by the weekend I should leave to Yurimaguas the next morning in order to catch a boat and navigate to Iquitos.

So, with much regret I booked a car to Yurimaguas for the early morning. 25 soles.

We’ll see how it goes.

Tarapoto

I arrived to Tarapoto earlier than expected, a little after 4 AM. Arriving at night is not ideal you will soon see why.

Got a motocar that would take me to the Hotel Cielo, a tip from the guy I met in Kuelap. Well all seemed fine until we arrived to a building with no sign and metal doors that the motocar driver insisted was the Hotel Cielo. As nobody would open the door I agreed to see some other options. I didn’t like any of them as I was sure Hotel Cielo accepted my visa card and had a pool. So I told the guy after like 30 min. of going around to leave me there that I would wait until they open. And gave him 4 soles which was plenty it seemed. After standing there for a while I walked to another hotel that looked nice -3 or 4 starts- but they told me they were full and that Hotel Cielo was not there but in the 3rd block of San Martin ave.

Fuck the motocar drivers, I thought.

It was around 5 AM so I went to the main square thinking that there should be a bar o a restaurant open and that I could have something to drink and wait for daylight. It just happens that everything was closed in Tarapoto. Not even a place for a coffee. So I walked around the square looking for even an emolientera but found a weird group of people sitting around a corner. Didn’t look friendly nor much safe so I just looked at the night sky and whistled away to go back and seat in the sidewalk in front of the tourist information office.

I waited around the main square until daylight came. In the meantime, I saw some men wearing orange overalls. A few were around the square, later many came and sat by the steps at the Continental bank office. They were the workers building the highway between Tarapoto and Yurimaguas. Later, as I thought of taking them a picture and was taking my camera out they started yelling “picture!, picture!” in English. I hesitated. And a bus came and parked between us. It was their time to go have breakfast before starting to work.

Daylight came, got to the Hotel Cielo -3 blocks away from the main square- 45 soles, including private bathroom, cable TV, a fun -no air conditioning at that fare- and pool use. The hotel is clean, looks quiet but square all around. Functional and clean.

Points of interest here are the tourist information office -that as usual has limited information-, La Muyuna ice cream just a couple of blocks from the main square -they have a shop also at Lima in Angamos with Arequipa ave. so you can try aguaje, camu-camu, copahiba and other exotic flavors without leaving Lima- and La Patarasca. This last one is a restaurant perhaps the best of my trip up to now. They take visa cards and have local dishes with an international touch. You can see here my lunch, a large piece of fresh Paiche fish grilled, a ball of tacacho -smashed bananas with small pieces of chicharron-, some small fried platanitos -sweet bananas- and Chonta salad -the stuff that looks like tagliatelle pasta- over a couch of fresh avocado and tomatos. This tastes like heaven, you gotta try it to believe it. They have many dishes but I can only eat one at a time.

grilled Paiche with Chonta salad

Being a Monday there was not much to do at Tarapoto, even the places at Morales district -including the red light stuff- I was told were not opened or barely. So I stayed downtown, ate nicely and walked a bit planning my visit to Laguna Azul -the Blue Lagoon- next day.

Pedro Ruiz

There is not much to be said about this town. In order to reach Tarapoto from Chachapoyas you have to go to Pedro Ruiz and catch a bus there as no direct buses are available

The cheapest way to go happens to be the most comfortable one as well. CIVA buses going to Chiclayo leave at around 6 PM every day and charge 7 soles to Pedro Ruiz. Mine left at 7 PM but you know how it is. If you are average or a little tall you will appreciate the extra leg room. There are also cars -like taxis- that charge 15 soles and leave when they are full.

CIVA buses leave you in an intersection with the main highway from the coast to Tarapoto. You have to wait there until a bus arrives and stops to pick passengers. Don’t listen to the car drivers that wait there, they told me that “the only” way to reach Tarapoto was from Nueva Cajamarca, so I had to take a ride with them to there and they asked 30 soles. A complete lie.

I just waited less than 45 minutes and got a bus -also from CIVA- that charged me 35 soles to Tarapoto.

Got a seat by a window and slept a bit of the way.

Still in Chachapoyas

After the Kuelap descent my legs were begging for mercy. So I stayed one day in the comfort of my hotel just chilling out and enjoying the day. The next day we got heavy rain -good we didn’t go anywhere.

Taking with the owner it turned out he needed to translate the text of his web page-to-be to English. So we made a deal, and got another tour and lodging in exchange for that translation.

Nice heh?

We left early for the tour this time and saw this bridge in the way. It connects Luya, Lamúd and other villages with Chachapoyas and the rest of the world. After crossing by foot to the other side another ride was waiting for us.

broken bridge

It so happens that those cabs were stuck in there. Imagine this, you go someplace and you’re stuck there as there no longer is a bridge to let your vehicle come back. That is their exact situation.

Ok, a little later we reached Lamúd to have breakfast and then continue to our destination. A little walk in a beautiful countryside leads to the site.

Path to Karaj�a site

Karajía is a site with sarcophaguses standing in a very steep cliff side. It makes you wonder why did they choose that location and how do they manage to put the sarcophaguses in there.

Karaj�a Sarcophaguses

They must’ve revered isolation, panoramic views and a wild scenery. So do I.

Later we went to lunch to an unpronounceable town and to part ways with the Germans. Yesterday afternoon I met a group of Germans who were starting a 4 day trek around many of the local sites. We had a few beers and made good friends and I was invited to trek with them by the guide as well. I wanted to go, but hell, my legs remembered me I am not in such a good condition now. OK, we said wiedersehen in Iquitos and a couple of Czechs and me continued our ride to the Town of the Dead while they headed for the Huaylla Belén valley and 4 days more of trekking.

Getting to the Town of the Dead takes a larger and steeper descent by foot than to Karajía along a path in what seems to be a beautiful wild garden. Really. On the way you can see the Gocta Waterfall in front. Light didn’t really help. Gocta is the third tallest free-leaping waterfall in the world with 771 m.

Gocta, from the opposite mountain side

Not much is known of this site; there were mummies and artifacts, most of which have been raided already. But the place is amazing with a view overlooking a deep valley all green and mostly inaccessible. Made me think how wonderful for having a terrace, seating with a drink and enjoying the silence.

Town of the Dead

It’s a real pity that no books on Kuelap are available in Chachapoyas city. In any language.

Back in my hotel I rested my tired bones after a long hot shower. And woke up at midnight to go out and have a taste of this city nightlife.

Met a coupe of local guys at the disco who showed me around driving a bit drunk -them, not me- in the empty city streets. Great fun. Chachapoyan girls are kind, with a great cinnamont skin color and a lovely accent.

Living recklessly is great.


listening Roxette It must’ve been love